adventures in a chosen family, part two: things fall apart

close-up photo of brown branch coated in ice

not so much a content warning as a content heads-up: bad weather and power-outage-related happenings.

[you might also like adventures in chosen family]

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

from The Second Coming by W.B.Yeats (empasis mine), which was written around the time of the 1918 pandemic [HMM THAT’S INTERESTING] For the full effect, click the poem’s name to read the rest.

‘Things Fall Apart’ is also the name of a fantastically emotional book about choices and colonialism and harm by Chinua Achebewhich I read long enough ago that I need to read it again. Things falling apart reminded me of the concept of entropy, which reminded me of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which I cannot pretend to fully understand, although I am passingly familiar — essentially, things fall apart. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines entropy as “a way of measuring the lack of order that exists in a system.”

Things fall apart.

What is ordered will, at least inside the physics we seem to inhabit, necessarily, eventually become chaotic. The best laid plans of mice and men, and so on. If you follow my writing, you probably have noticed that I like making plans. I like knowing what will happen next. I like having a handle on the big picture of a given situation, so that I can adjust and manipulate carefully and compassionately but also wisely, the elements involved in order to, hopefully, finish the day without having slid too close to entropy.

The nice thing about well-designed systems is that you can finish your task list, or your if-then statements, stop for the day, and start again fresh the next. The chaos that can happen doesn’t necessarily have to carry through to the next day, although of course it sometimes does. Things do also stack on top of one another, which is a thing I believe is true but I wouldn’t know how to scientifically prove it and then name a law of physics about it.

We had an ice storm last week Wednesday, and things fell apart.

It rained in the cold that was just warm enough that it wasn’t snowing but just cold enough that the wetness froze where it settled. The trees became covered in ice and some of them, weighed down by too much, fell apart. Branches broke off with a terrible cracking noise, thumping onto the ground for hours after darkness fell. Everything was coated in ice, so the cracking and heavy thumping echoed in an ominous way. I’m not sure how far sound was carrying, but I probably heard branches dropping under their own weight at least a half mile down the road in either direction.

Our power infrastructure here in Michigan also fell apart. Falling branches broke power lines and crunched other things, I’m sure. It’s not surprising that one of the power companies that holds a monopoly in this state was “unprepared” 1Nobody affiliated with them has said they were unprepared, but they sure as shit acted like it caught them completely off guard. for a storm with these kinds of consequences, but it’s disappointing and I feel angry about it. Better infrastructure could mean that people wouldn’t have to sit in the dark for five or more days in sub-zero temperatures, but we don’t have that here, we have shitty infrastructure. And if we knew in my family that there was a bad storm coming and to plan around it as well as we could at the time (which is what we did), of course Consumers Energy could have done an extremely better job. They weren’t unprepared, they’re just selfish. Capitalism will kill us all if we let it.

During the first day, the house was holding in heat fairly well, and there was an initial approximation that the power would be back on by the following afternoon, so we waited to start up the generator in order to conserve gasoline. When the time came and went, amid increasing thousands of people without power, their shitty outage website crashed or just wouldn’t load, and when it did load, the estimated restoration time kept changing.

(We are goddamn blessed and fortunate that ours came back on today and not tomorrow, and I know there are people right now who still haven’t got their power back on yet)

(Fuck capitalism)

On day two, we got the generator — Jenny — started up.

We 2I did not do any of this myself; we are fortunate enough to have several people capable of understanding how to use a generator safely, and additionally, we are fortunate in that those people are on the spectrum and know heaps more about how electricity works than is even at all necessary. So I don’t need to know how to turn that on right now. ran some cords into the house on the ground level and the second floor, so that we could power a few things; mostly, a heater, and a place to charge our devices.

Some of our housemates were quarantining (BAD TIMING OMG) on the ground floor, so they needed their own heater and charging station. They also hooked up the TV, a thing I kind of wish we’d done up on the second floor, but I think we did as well as we could.

Each day, we refreshed the Consumers Energy website so we could be lied to again. We woke up in cold rooms, although our toddler is massively loved and had as much body heat from others as he could possibly have wanted, and he stayed warm for the duration. We cuddled up together or we huddled up under a blanket near the heater while the upstairs cats thought they were having some kind of special event that came with a heating fixture and if anyone was disappointed that the power came back on today, it was definitely them.

Oh, and I have what is probably a double ear infection, so I was next to useless even though I didn’t realize I was sick, I thought I just didn’t feel good because it was cold and I have chronic illnesses. Hahahahaha.

Our family is almost entirely neurodivergent, and classically, we HATE when something changes in ways that cause our plans to become irrelevant.

Every year, we have a dark midwinter, and it’s a time of working-together that is more intense than our usual projects during the rest of the year. It’s shaping us and how we operate as a unit.

After years of working on it (and an expectation that we will continue working on it), we have a system of systems — a container for smaller containers — and that is what we are learning to lean into, as well as learning to trust ourselves and one another to follow the systems that we have built together.

We had just pivoted for the unexpected quarantine adjustment, and changed plans in ways that made me very proud of my family. It’s more meaningful than I can express, how precious and beautiful it is that while we are still each working out our previous traumas, we are not building more traumas on top of them. Collectively, we aren’t the main reason that we each need therapy. Collectively, we are the reason that when we can access therapy, it works. We have built a safe space for both doing our best and for fucking up when fucking up is what’s happening. (Sometimes fucking up is what’s happening, whether we wanted it or not.)

As things fell further apart — it got even colder, someone had to go get food for us to eat, and then someone had to go get fuel when the fuel cans were empty so they could be refilled, and several someones were sleeping in shifts in order to keep the generator fueled and running, and then it kept getting colder, and we noticed the toddler wasn’t eating very well, and some of us (me) didn’t realize we were sick, and one of us wasn’t retaining body heat, and all of us were so thrown off that I don’t think we remembered to eat. One of my two co-parents, the Doctor of Chinese Medicine — and yes, that is a proper medical title that represents years of study and practice and proctored exams — watched out for everyone’s physical health as much as possible. That’s who went to the only Chinese restaurant nearby that was open so we could have a relatively hot meal. That’s who went out in the dark on roads that hadn’t been properly cleared yet, to get clean drinking water and snacks to help us keep our chins up. That’s who, after not finding enough water the second time out, instead purchased a siphon in order to get lake water into jugs that we could use to flush the toilets.

Things fall apart, and in those moments, I think it’s the people you trust that make the chaos bearable.

We live so close to the land here, thanking it for what it gives us, reading the secret language of rabbit and deer footprints in the snow by the offering tree, breaking out in grins when we see ducklings waddling after their mamas in the spring, helping wee tree frogs off the door hinges in summer, sitting around an autumn bonfire watching the night sky, grateful that the earth our house is built into makes it strong and safe. The spirits of the land are some of the people that I trust.

Our lake literally helped us with a basic need; you can’t use an indoor toilet hooked up to modern plumbing when the power is out unless you have plenty of water to fill the tank when a flush is necessary.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: things always fall apart. Entropy always happens. Nothing is perfect. No chosen family can avoid the inevitable problems that just have to be lived through because they can’t be solved. But this family? I love them. I trust them. There’s nobody else I’d rather be stuck with inside a cold house in an ice storm and no running water. Even the cats, those fluffy adorable evil little passive-aggressive shits. I love them too.

It’s nice to be writing again. It was really hard to find what to write about during the past month or so, partly because this was happening and it wasn’t mine to talk about.

There’ll be other things that I’m not talking about for a while that I’ll get to surprise you with later on, but for now, I’m just happy that my room is warm, my favorite blanket is clean again, and if I want to take a hot shower before I go to bed, I can.

I wish you safety and warmth whenever it’s possible.

— Nix

featured image is a photo by Jorge Guillen on Unsplash


  • 1
    Nobody affiliated with them has said they were unprepared, but they sure as shit acted like it caught them completely off guard.
  • 2
    I did not do any of this myself; we are fortunate enough to have several people capable of understanding how to use a generator safely, and additionally, we are fortunate in that those people are on the spectrum and know heaps more about how electricity works than is even at all necessary. So I don’t need to know how to turn that on right now.
Nix Kelley
Co-parent to multiple kids. Writer. Death doula. Member of the Order of the Good Death. Seeker on the Path of Light. Queer, non-binary, & trans.


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